Dia de Todos os Santos

It’s the time of lighting first fires, and the time of snails.

The last days of October creep around, and the clocks get changed back, and we wonder why, especially as we ponder the setting sun an hour too early–though we welcome the extra hour of sleep.

Halloween struck us as strange in Portugal–though in Lisboa and surrounding areas it’s practiced I think more than in the rest of the country. We didn’t see any trick-or-treaters, unless you count the neighbors that stopped by–but we did see costumes and themed parties at the bars and brewpubs around town.

The ongoing holiday in Portugal–revived as a national holiday few years ago to signal an end to austerity–is Dia de Todos os Santos, All Saints’ Day, commemorated on November 1 as a day to attend mass and honor all of the saints that pepper the Catholic calendar. You’d think that even though every saint has his–or her–own day in the country (and some have several it seems), there still needs to be a catchall day in case some lonely saint was forgotten.

More Portuguese celebrate Dia de Todas as Almas, All Souls’ Day, where the loyal go to tend the graves of their ancestors–and participate in the truly national sport of feasting and drinking wine. This year, the calendar’s miracle occurred: the day off (November 1) came on a Friday, making for a three-day weekend–and launching with Halloween on Thursday night.

Last year, we celebrated the harvest at Quinta de Sant’Ana, with their ripening abóboras and turning leaves–the only autumn we’d see in the persistent green of the countryside. We also witnessed an onslaught of snails, caracois, that crawled on the rosemary, and which we threatened with dipping in garlic butter! I wonder if one of them housed a lonely soul forever consigned to plod a slow trail of faith.

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